Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg recently announced the company would rebrand to “Meta” and focus on creating the metaverse. This move continues a long-running thread where Zuckerberg tries to make the company less vulnerable to Google and Apple and keep it relevant amidst growing discomfort about how effective the company is at turning our elderly parents into fascists, among other things.
Facebook is expected to make better use of its 2014 acquisition of Oculus, which made virtual reality headsets—a move that has not paid off so far.
Many people received Zuckerberg’s virtual ride from his living room, to play cards in space with his robot friend, with a bit of skepticism or ridicule. As a side note, most of my Facebook friends are also robots.
What do business people think about it? A lot of businesses have set up a virtual presence, and what they find is, what’s the point?
“But, if in fact I could walk up to the virtual support desk and meet the avatar of the virtual support person, which would then find somebody in the company that has the right skills to actually help me, that could become of great value,” says one executive.
“I really feel like [they are] onto something here. This could just be a short-lived fad but it just seems like there is just so much productivity boosting that can be done with virtual business worlds—it just has to happen,” advocates one thought leader.
Other vendors like Microsoft have leaped at this chance as well. In fact, according to one report, they have created an “application to create a virtual store where consumers can browse, check out PCs, and interact with other shoppers.”
Meanwhile, IBM announced they are investing $100M to explore new business models in this virtual world. The announcement pointed to an annual report that said,
A new computing model has emerged, replacing the PC-based, client/server approach… [which is] networked, modular, open and represents a fundamental shift in the technology requirements of the company’s clients… [IBM is] continuing its shift from commoditizing segments to higher value segments with better profit opportunity.
Oh wait, that is not the Metaverse. It was Second Life back in 2008, and that executive was former Nortel CTO Phil Edholm, and the thought leader was Rich Tehrani. Second Life is a still existing virtual world that was supposed to give us a new virtual existence. It is like an adult Minecraft before Minecraft. We were all supposed to buy virtual goods.
I am not sure what happened to IBM’s $100M, but I bet most of you do not have Second Life accounts unless you are hardcore perverts. Also, Nortel went bankrupt shortly thereafter. Avaya revived the technology as web.alive and then AvayaLive Engage before shuttering it in 2016.
In 2010 we were all supposed to run out and buy 3D televisions, but they stopped making those by 2016. In 2013 we were supposed to experience augmented reality with Google Glass. I still hate most of you that changed your profile picture to highlight them.
And now Microsoft is back with cartoon people in Microsoft Teams. The metaverse is apparently a digital avatar in the same flat grid in the meeting software everyone likes less. Okay, so it beats turning my camera on and letting my coworkers see that I don’t bother to wear a shirt half the time.
Good news, everyone, you can buy NFTs in the metaverse! What could be more useful and less of a grift than NFTs?
I do not want to live the metaverse. I want to do real stuff. Luckily, I will not have to live there. How do I know? We have been here before. Maybe the metaverse will be the next big thing, or perhaps no one wants to wear stupid glasses and play a boring videogame with no objective?
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